Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book Review: "All Our Wrong Todays" by Elan Mastai

If Back to the Future and Dark Matter had a baby, the end result would be Elan Mastai's slightly crazy, tremendously compelling All Our Wrong Todays. While it's not as zany as the former, or as heart-pounding as the latter, it's a really creative, thought-provoking book with a lot more heart than you'd expect from a novel about time travel.

Tom Barren lives in 2016, but it's not quite the 2016 we all know—it's more like the vision of the future we all had when we were growing up, the vision that science fiction and fantasy novels we might have read or movies we might have watched made us believe was a possibility. You know, flying cars, a world where your needs for sustenance, grooming, fashion, and activities are fulfilled with the touch of a button.

"Today, in the year 2016, humanity lives in a techno-utopian paradise of abundance, purpose, and wonder."

But given this paradisaical existence, why isn't Tom happy? His father is the leading authority on time travel, who can barely hide his disdain for his ne'er-do-well son, and he's about to unveil a major advance in that field, one that could further change the world for the better. Yet Tom destroys every professional opportunity, every personal relationship, every situation he gets involved in. And he couldn't care less.

One night, Tom suddenly thinks he gets what he has always wanted. Yet his actions have unexpected consequences, consequences which lead him to recklessly travel back in time 50 years, when the discovery which set the world on the path to utopia it currently enjoys. But much as everything Tom touches, this, too, goes awry, and while Tom is able to return to 2016, it's no longer the world he knows—it's our 2016 instead. And Tom (whose name is apparently John in this alternate version of 2016) finds a new version of his family, which actually seems more appealing than the one he left, and another version of the woman of his dreams, who is apparently smitten with him as well.

Should he stay in this version of 2016, even though he knows it is wrong, and that his actions have utterly changed the course of history, or should he try and figure out how to set things right and return the world back to the utopia it has known, even if his life kinda sucks? Given the fact that almost no one believes his stories about the world he's from, it's going to require a lot of convincing, a lot of fighting the alternate versions of himself, and tracking down the original genius who started it all.

"So, how do you go about changing the last five decades of history in a world where time travel is considered an amusing thought experiment? Even if the science existed, in the absence of crucial advances in related fields—teleportation, immateriality, invisibility, even simple component manufacturing—the whole endeavor is futile."

While at times the book got a little too technical and/or confusing, All Our Wrong Todays really made me think. How would you deal with a reunion with a loved one you've lost, even if they're not the exact person you knew? If the world around you seems happy, why do you have to put aside your own happiness—something you've never truly felt—to restore a different kind of happiness? (It's amazing the questions you ponder in a book about time travel.)

I found this really entertaining and utterly fascinating. I think this book would make one hell of a movie, and it really is an interesting book to read after Dark Matter, because it confronts some of the same themes. If you like books about time travel, saving the world, and a good, healthy dose of personal and family dysfunction, this is one for you. It definitely was for me!

NetGalley and Dutton provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!


  1. Wonderful review, Larry! I'm a new followers on here and on Goodreads. Your reviews are so insightful and beautifully written, so thank you! I just got this book from NG last week and I'm excited to read it!

    1. Thanks, Megan! Welcome to the blog! (Sorry for my delayed response.) I hope you enjoy the book!